Tentative TennCare Cuts Likely to be Implemented

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal delay may cause rate cuts for TennCare providers in areas including nursing homes, home health providers, transportation services, dentistry and labs and X-rays.
The state’s expanded Medicaid program announced Friday that it no longer anticipates receiving the federal money in time to stop the rate cuts from growing from 4.25 percent to 8.5 percent in January.
Lawmakers last session approved a TennCare budget contingent on receiving an estimated $82 million from the federal government to make up for billing mistakes for people eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now expects it will require federal legislation to resolve the money owed to the states.
Gov. Bill Haslam said three weeks ago the state may face deep cuts in federal funding, with services for the poor and disabled disproportionately affected.
TennCare would possibly cut up to $2.2 billion. The program serves 1.2 million people.

See also The Tennessean, which focuses on nursing home cuts. An excerpt:
Staffing is the only place nursing homes can cut back, said Jesse Samples, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Association. Labor accounts for 70 percent of costs, he said, while the other 30 percent are for fixed costs.
“You’re looking at personnel,” Samples said. “It’s not like the facilities are going to be taking care of the same number of patients with less staff. What they are going to have is less patients to go along with that less staff. What will happen will be an access problem.”

An explanatory note to media from TennCare officials is below.

Email from TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson, entited TennCare 2012 Budget Update:
Based on communications with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, TennCare will have to implement the additional provider rate reductions that were included in the program’s current budget.
The budget contemplated the program being able to postpone the additional reduction due to the potential receipt of money owed to the state by the federal government. When the budget passed, it included a contingency plan that gave instructions on how those funds would be used should they be received prior to January 1, 2012. However due to recent communication from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is unlikely these funds will be received by Tennessee in order to postpone the reductions.
The contingency budget would have postponed a 4.25 percent rate cut to certain providers. This includes: nursing homes, MCO administrative rates, transportation providers, lab and x-ray providers, dentists, the PACE program, and home health providers. This 4.25 percent rate reduction is in addition to the 4.25 percent rate reduction that went into place at the start of the fiscal year (July 1, 2011).
As you may recall, the original budget proposal actually called for an 8.5 percent rate reduction for these providers. However at the time the budget was passed, there was a possibility the federal government would make good on its debt to Tennessee before the mid-point of the fiscal year (January 1, 2012). This would have allowed the state to minimize that rate change to 4.25 percent for the entire fiscal year.
Recently, HHS announced that they believe absent federal legislation they are unable to resolve the outstanding liability. It is highly improbable that this type of legislation could be introduced and passed by Congress by the January 1 deadline. This is why TennCare must prepare for making the additional 4.25 percent rate reductions with a January 1 effective date.
We will keep you informed should the situation change.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines who receives disability benefits. Over the past 35 years, the SSA made a systematic error in the handling of about 300,000 cases of people who applied for disability. This resulted in some individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) when they should have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSA refers to the effort to correct this problem as the Special Disability Workload or SDW.
The SSA error has a cost impact to states because states were required to provide a portion of the funding for Medicaid benefits to individuals who should have qualified for federally-funded Medicare benefits. Individuals receiving SSI automatically receive Medicaid benefits. Medicaid is funded by the state and the federal government. Individuals receiving SSDI are eligible to receive Medicare benefits after receiving SSDI for two years. Medicare is primarily funded by the federal government. This resulted in Tennessee being owed an estimated $82 million for services provided to SDW cases that Medicare should have covered.
Over the past year, many states worked together to put forth a potential solution to this longstanding issue which would require the HHS Secretary to use administrative authority to solve the problem. Governor Haslam and many other Governors wrote official letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging HHS to approve this proposal. TennCare and other state Medicaid officials across the U.S. have also been in communication with HHS about this issue.
While HHS has stated their desire to resolve this problem, ultimately it is their interpretation that federal legislation would be needed to resolve the SDW liability.

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